Young Playwrights Festival | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Young Playwrights Festival

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YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL, Pegasus Players. I don't know why the Pegasus Players folks invite critics to their annual Young Playwrights Festival--they can't honestly expect us to judge these young artists, all in high school or recent graduates, by the same standards we use to praise or bury professionals. These writers are still finding their voices, still trying to figure out who they are. The last thing they need is for some jaded theater addict to praise them too lavishly or condemn them for insufficient brilliance. Still, I'm glad Pegasus produces this festival--someone should be encouraging young writers. And certainly each of the four chosen this year shows some sort of promise.

Olga Chavez, author of Nopales on Augusta Blvd, has a knack for vivid, believable characters. And Alicia Smiley in Mama's Always Grown, borrowing a page from Lorraine Hansberry, successfully re-creates the feeling of a life filled with deferred dreams. Yuansong Guo's heartfelt Going Home, about a young Chinese-American ambivalent about her ethnic heritage, reminded me of how much my friends and I yearned at 17 for identities and a sense of our places in the world.

But the play that really made the evening for me was Mercedes MacDonald's The Prophet, a moving, comic portrait of a young man whose laughably crass family keeps puncturing his grandiose self-image. I hope MacDonald keeps writing--I'd like to see what she's doing in five or ten years.

--Jack Helbig

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